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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Where did Superboy’s DNA come from?

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at where Superboy’s DNA came from…


Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett created the 1990s Superboy, who was a partial clone of Superman, for the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline that led to the return of Superman. In the 1995 Superboy Annual, they finally revealed who was the human basis for Superboy’s DNA. It turns out it was the villainous Director of Cadmus, Paul Westfield!!

Westfield was a fairly notable Superman supporting character at the time, but over the years he was more or less relegated to limbo, particularly when Kesel left the book for good.

Roughly a decade later, though, Teen Titans #1 came out and we discovered that Superboy was actually half a clone of Superman and half a clone of a human. And the REAL human part of Superboy’s DNA was…

This might have been dropped with the new 52 reboot, but even if it was, I don’t count reboots as “abandoning and forsaking” previous plots, since that’s the whole point of a reboot.

I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about the interesting history of how long Geoff Johns (writer of Teen Titans #1) had been hoping to have Lex Luthor be the human part of Superboy’s DNA. You can read it here.


Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I had thought that all of his DNA came from Westfield and they just modified it so he’d look like Superman. Then they somehow got his powers by replicating the protective field that surrounds Superman, which was why Superboy had tactile telekinesis but no hearing or vision powers. He wasn’t actually related to Superman as all, as they couldn’t clone him.

This annoyed me so much at the time, what Johns did, but I’ve mellowed considerably since then. It makes a lot more sense in a “high concept” pitch way.

Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I had thought that all of his DNA came from Westfield and they just modified it so he’d look like Superman. Then they somehow got his powers by replicating the protective field that surrounds Superman, which was why Superboy had tactile telekinesis but no hearing or vision powers. He wasn’t actually related to Superman as all, as they couldn’t clone him.

No, you’re right, Nick. I was just spotlighting the Westfield to Luthor change, but you’re right that they also changed how the clone process worked. I’ll clarify that in the piece.

Other Nick, you are correct. He was not in any way Kryptonian. Instead he was a normal human based on Westfield’s DNA then given the tactile telekinetic field in order to mimic Superman’s powers.

Like Matt D, I grew more tolerant of this over time but really disliked it at first. As with the darkening of the Flash’s Rogues and the general transition from Young Justice to the new wave of Titans, I felt like Johns was ending a lot of what had been fun in DC in the 90s. Conflicted, possibly-evil Superboy who ended up beating up his friends was a lot less distinctive, interesting, and fun than Kesel’s Kid.

always prefered super boy being part superman and luthor mostly the irony of two bitter long time enemies winding up having their dna fused though thought i remember some issue where after superman got killed by doomsday some one said his dna was immpossible to penatrate for an autopsy which wold also make getting dna for cloning super boys part from superman immpossible.

In the recent Power Girl series, there was a great scene where Maxwell Lord asked Dr. Sivana on help with cloning a Kryptonian. Sirvana’s response was on the order of “oh, it’s not as hard as you may think”.

Always disliked that Johns retcon. Still dislike it. I always figured that must have been a LexCorp (or a subsidiary) laptop, with an embedded routine that looked for “Superboy” and “DNA”, just to mess with the Kid. Luthor’s been known to do that before.

luthor being the human dna donor for superboy is one of the most ridiculous and forced retcons on the character. should have just left it as it was.

I’m going to side with everyone else here. I tend to like most of what Geoff Johns does (unlike most), but the Superboy retcon just felt wrong. I preferred the character when he had a sense of humor and was kind of arrogant. He still had lots of potential for dramatic storytelling without forcing a depressing origin on him.

Incidentally, this is why I don’t much care for the Young Justice version of the character.

I remember getting Teen Titans #1 in San Diego back in 2003. When I got to a computer, I eagerly posted the news on a message thread dedicated to Smallville, spilling the details about the child made from Kal-El and Lex Luthor. Back then, we were waiting for the third season, and the Clark/Lex shipping was at a fever pitch. Crap, Smallville is where I first heard about “slashfic.”

This entry just made me feel REALLY old, because reading the headline made me realize that the word “Superboy” still makes me think of “The adventures of Superman when he was a boy” instead of Kon-El the clone of somebody or another. :)

I didn’t much like the original origin when I first read it, but after reading Geoff Johns retcon it suddenly seemed so much better in comparison. I could have even forgiven the horrible revised origin if it led to a good story, but instead it just lead to months of badly depicted angst over whether he was now going to turn evil. I don’t think DNA quite works like that, where having an evil dad automatically makes you turn spontaneously evil, even though you didn’t grow up with said evil dad and were never raised by him. But then when the climax happened and Superboy realized his evil destiny, complete with a now bald head, I couldn’t believe they were seriously trying to sell this story. Nothing good came out of that retcon as far as I could tell.

If Superboy was “the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, then Supergirl must be…

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

A+ for xum. Thread has been won. Everyone go home.

What about when Superboy was permanently aged to 16 years old after getting a genetically-engineered zit?

[No Prize] The events of Sins of Youth allowed him to age, once again.

I like Superboy being derived from both Superman and Luthor. It seems like exactly the kind of thing Luthor would do just to prove or even just because he could. But, I do agree with some of the others here that the story the reveal led to was horrible.

And, what made the story really bad in my opinion is that it could have been good. There could have been additional data in the same file to indicate Superboy had some sort of hypnotic suggestion or cybernetic control that could turn him evil at a moment’s notice

As Matt D says, this works a lot better in a high concept way, but as T says, it really didn’t go anywhere worth going. I haven’t looked at the link to the old CBLR about this story, but I remember reading, and knowing that Johns was so gung ho on it so long before he worked at DC, despite the fact that it didn’t make any sense with the stories going on at the time, well, it just didn’t work well for me.

I much preferred the first origin: The idea of jerry-rigging a telekinetic who was unwittingly faking Superman’s powers was neat, and his tactile telekinesis gave him a slightly different range of powers from Kal.
Plus he was fun. Broody post-retcon emo boy? Not much. Makes me wish he’d take advice from the Manhunter clone in Power Company (“I’ll apologize for being a clone the moment I meet someone who chose how they came into this world.”).
The darkening of the Rogues was just silly. Oooh, they’re going to go dark and kill the Flash! Because they only tried that every issue they showed up in back in the Silver Age (the same way Identity Crisis was about the kind of mindwipe they pulled dozens of times to hide their identities back in the sixties).

I read Reign of the Supermen storyline back in the day and from the get go I always figured Superboy was half Luthor. It shocks me that people complain that Luthor was retconned in, because in my mind he was half Lex half Kal. O well, I just think it’s kinda funny, and shows what I don’t know.

@Donald – I also assumed that Lex was the donor the first time I read RotSM; but then again, I didn’t read any of the other Superman comics of the time period. Still, when you just look at that story, it seemed like they were kind of hinting at Lex having an important part in Kon-El’s creation.

I like the retconned origin if for no other reason than it makes the character about a dozen times more accessible to new readers (which the industry needs) and other media (which is how we get new readers).

“Superboy isn’t a clone of Superman, he’s the clone of this obscure villain who was the director of Project Cadmus from the early 90’s. He gave the clone darker hair and telekinesis so that he could fake being Superman.”


“Superboy is, in essence, the son of Superman and his greatest enemy created through cloning.”

Or “Superboy was a research lab’s attempt to create a clone of Superman. Since they failed, they genetically engineered him to duplicate his powers psionically.” If someone’s going to give up on reading that, they’re unlikely to buy comics anyway.

Superboy was never a partial clone of Superman in any single Superboy story before Teen Titans. This is what the books stated:

“We obtained Superman’s body. But the usual cloning techniques were useless on his alien physiology. We could genetically alter a clone to look like Superman. But we needed to simulate Superman’s powers” – Adventures of Superman #506

“Cadmus certainly knew what they were doing! You’re totally human of course. But they made you as Kryptonian-like as possible.” -Superboy #0 http://i1092.photobucket.com/albums/i404/LordChaosKing/SuperboyDNA.jpg

“I’m the closest thing to Superman that advanced genetics could cook up” and “You’re up against the closest genetic equivalent of Superman science could create” – Superboy/Robin WF3 #1 and #2

“Cadmus decided to clone their own Man of Steel. Starting by getting a sample of super-genes, right? No way is more like it! Turns out, in Kryptonian, DNA means ‘do not analyze’. But Director Westfield had a second team and Plan B waiting in the wings. They genetically engineered the closest human equivalent to Superman that they could. Mainly, me! And who, may I ask, was I cloned from? The only person that Mr. Forget My Ethics would trust with that much power, of course. Westfield himself! Only good news is that they genetically changed just about everything when they made me.” – Team Superman: Secret Files and Origins #1

“Well I think the most common misconception is that Superboy’s a clone of Superman himself. But that’s not true. He is a clone, created by Project Cadmus, which was trying to produce a replacement for Superman when the world thought that he was dead. But the cellstock used to create Superboy didn’t come from Superman. It came from some other source. One that executive director Paul Westfield thought would make Superboy easier to control.” – Superboy #32

“I’m actually a clone of a creep named Westfield, who used to run Cadmus. Only I have tactile telekinetic abilities that mimic some of Superman’s powers” – Adventures in the DC Universe #14 (based on the DCAU)

“When Kryptonian DNA was proven indecipherable….” – Superboy Annual #2….the book you got the scans from.

There are over 18 other books that stated that he’s not a Kryptonian and/or his origin story. The aforementioned, Superboy #8, Superboy #28, Superboy #35, Superboy #41, Superboy #42, Superboy #60, Superboy #61, Superboy One Million, Secret Files 80-Page Giant, Superman Jr & Superboy Sr., and even more. And it’s right in the very first pages of Superboy Annual #2 when the man who created him said that they didn’t use Kryptonian DNA and in the story when they talk about the DNA used. Superboy later says outright that he would trade with Superman and be Kryptonian instead of Westfield’s clone after Superman’s thoughts on wanting to be human instead of alien. If Superboy’s a partial Kryptonian, why would he say that?


In Adventures of Superman #501, Luthor clearly thought that Cadmus couldn’t clone Superman. Clues were shown throughout Reign and Superboy was revealed to be 100% human in Adventures of Superman #506. The issue after Reign of the Supermen” ended. The “Noooooo! I gotta be a clone of Superman!” and “Bottom line, I’m not his clone right? So whose clone am I?” pretty much said it all. He wasn’t cloned from Superman and Luthor wasn’t involved. All those books said otherwise, Reign of the Supermen blatantly said otherwise, and Funeral For A Friend actually showed why they couldn’t clone Superman (complete with broken scalpels) and why Luthor wanted to stop Cadmus from cloning Superman (Because Luthor was brought back to life as a clone).

It was not an “Alan Moore retcon” like you stated before because it was presented as “this is what really happened” and they got the most basic things wrong. Like the picture from Teen Titans. There was no “Project Superboy” because the point wasn’t to make a Superboy. They grew him to be a Superman and he was Superboy because he was released early. Hence the Project password: “Man of Tomorrow” in Superboy Annual #2. Cadmus records didn’t have donors listed because none of them knew were Superboy’s DNA came from. They only had the name of the match to Superboy’s DNA….in Superboy Annual #2. Reading Annual #2 shows just how wrong and badly researched the retcon was.

Westfield wasn’t forgotten after Kesel left at all. He was still referenced in Superboy’s book and even DiDio’s run had Westfield showing up in an alt story. And his daughter Amanda Spence was still around as a Superboy villain. All of this was going on before Teen Titans.

@ Donald and Anonymous

There wasn’t any sign of Lex being a part of Superboy in any single story in Reign of the Superman. From the get go or anywhere else.

In Adventures of Superman #501, Lex Luthor smashed the TV showing Superboy’s interview and demanded to talk with the same Packard shown up there in the scans. On the last page, Lex reminded Packard of their arrangement and Lex outright says “You told me that Superman couldn’t be cloned”. Lex didn’t know and that was in the very first full appearance of Superboy. When he wanted a Superman to control, it was Steel that he wanted. When that failed, he used Supergirl to get Superboy to come to Team Luthor. Lex made a comment about them having things in common (caring about Metropolis and liking Supergirl’s beauty). When Superboy asked if he was a clone, Lex said “Ha.” because Lex really was a clone. When Superboy signed with WGBS instead, Lex tried to sic his legal team on him. He outright stated that all the Supermen were a mystery to him and he was going to prove them liars. So no, there wasn’t a single shred of Lex being involved. And from the first appearance onward, Superboy was shown that he wasn’t Superman’s clone as advertised. He even tries to assure himself that he’s Superman’s clone after his battle with Cyborg Superman (the only one with Kryptonian DNA) and Cyborg saying that Superboy was not Superman’s clone.

If you read the previous Funeral For A Friend arc, Lex and the mayor stopped Cadmus from taking Superman’s body which lead to animosity between Cadmus and Lexcorp (and continued all the way to Battle of Metropolis/Fall of Metropolis). When the body was stolen, Lex became paranoid and thought that maybe Superman had a plan to return from the dead just like how Lex was brought back to life via cloning. He wanted a mole to see what Cadmus was up to because he had no idea. That was Packard. Lex thought that he won when he, Supergirl and Lois retrieved Superman’s body. Hence why he was upset in #501. He tried to stop Cadmus from cloning Superman and despite his efforts, a clone shows up. He learns the truth from the man that created him and considered him a pretender Superman like the rest,

There was no way Lex was in on the creation of Superboy.

The only explanation for this is continuity punches. Superboy-Prime changed Superboy’s origin.

I’ve flicked through quite a few Superboy stories from timesa past and there was a hypertime storyline (originally set to slowly integrate an incarnation of the multiverse back into pre-identity crisis DCU) where Director Westfield fell into a Hypertime portal/big flashy thing? and he and every hypertime Westfield were suddenly “killed” (everyone remembers it), but you could argue Wetfield was erased and then they had to retcon Superboys human DNA for something for plot driven..

I liked the ComboClone Superboy. TK Kid was cool, as well. Just didn’t need the tie to the Supers. Same as with the current DCU. If the ‘new’ kid is reliant almost solely upon TTK, why even toy with the whole Kryptonian DNA thing? It’s only ‘necessary’ for sales purposes.
Thankfully, there’s still the YJ version.

In Smallville (which I do know is not official Superman cannon) when exposed to kryptonite he could be cut and injured like a human. Couldn’t Cadmus just pull out some green-k and them chop him up for cloning?

The pre-Byrne comics were inconsistent (IIRC) on whether kryptonite actually made Superman vulnerable to mortal weapons. I’m not sure the Byrne reboot and following books ever specified, but it’s quite possible that even dying, his body would remain impenetrable.

Scott Steubing

June 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I forget the issue number (I think it was one where an ancient civilization was found underneath Metropolis, and they found somebody in suspended animation and Superman ended up taking him and a scientist chick back to his time period), but I read a text piece in a comic from the 70s that went into Superman’s history (up until that time) and powers. It said that a kryptonite bullet wouldn’t pierce Superman’s skin, but the radiation could still kill him.

In the “Funeral for a Friend” storyline, not only couldn’t Cadmus pierce Superman’s skin, they couldn’t sequence his DNA either.

I could see where the sequencing would be an issue, but I still like the ideas from Smallville making Superman that much more vulnerable.

Yeah, the Superman + Lex = Superboy retcon is when I stopped giving a crap about Superboy. If they cared so little about what had already been firmly established about his origins as to pull that, why should I care about the character at all. It’s like finding out that Spider-Man wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider, he was actually an alien from the planet of the spider people swapped at birth with the real son of Richard and Mary Parker.

It also didn’t help that Superboy suddenly stopped wearing a real costume and replaced it with jeans and a black T-shirt w/Superman logo around this time either. I mean, none of the versions of his old costume were anything particularly special, but at least they weren’t something I might bump into someone wearing on the street in real life.

That whole era where they ended Titans (which I really liked) and Young Justice (which I absolutely loved) to make way for the Teen Titans relaunch just completely rubbed me in many wrong ways.


July 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

For some reason it just makes more sense to me for Superboy to be cloned from Superman (and having some Lex DNA makes for good drama).

I dug the kid when he debuted and in his first appearance he believed himself to be cloned from Superman, I guess I liked it that way better even when they revealed his then “true” later. To me saying he’s back to being made from Superman is fine with me.

And I liked his new clothes better, but then i want reasons for crazy costumes. Superboy as a modern teenager would more likely choose a t-shirt and jeans. Not many young men want to run around in spandex.

That’s why I like the TV show “Young Justice”, it just streamlines Superboy to be his original debut as a clone from Superman and manages to reveal Lex’s part in a way that makes sense and has Superboy working for Luthor to get more powerful. Awesome drama there (And in how he stops Luthor)

The original origin, where Superboy was solely a clone of Westfield, with his DNA mutated enough to superficially mimic Kryptonian superpowers, made the most sense.

I mean, how can you be a “clone” of two different people? The definition of “clone” is having the exact same DNA as someone else. Everybody has the DNA of two different people: their father and their mother. That doesn’t make us clones.

If anything, this is more similar to in vitro fertilization. I guess Lex and Superman can fight over who gets to be the father and who gets to be the mother.

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